YOUGHAL, IRELAND – What a beautiful time… to be in Ireland!

In the evening, the sun lingers in the sky, lighting up the millions of snowflake-like willow fluff.

Like cattails, they waft around on the breeze, so light that they scarcely feel the pull of gravity. Half go up while the other half go down.

Lured outside, as if by some Lorelei in the bushes, we left our keyboard yesterday evening and walked out towards the river.

The cottage we’ve rented while work continues on our new property nearby is on a big estate which sits at a bend in the Blackwater river, the big house looking directly onto the water… its back protected by a wide arc of hills.

“It is a stunning place… stunning…” we said to Elizabeth when we got back.

“And a very bad idea to take a walk on such a lovely evening…”

“Why is that?” she enquired.

“Because now, I want to buy the place…”

Restless and Reckless

We were letting our imagination run. Better to let it exhaust itself, we reasoned, than to try to pull it up short. Otherwise, it will grow restless… and reckless.

Yesterday’s path led us from our cottage down to the riverbank, where the earth had been diked up, creating a path from the main house to the ruins of an old abbey.

The main house is a very impressive and handsome Georgian edifice, built soon after the American Revolution.

This area had fairly close contact with the New World. In nearby Youghal, you can still see the house where Sir Walter Raleigh lived.

The adventurer brought back two things from his visit to Virginia – the potato and tobacco. Both were to have long-lasting consequences.

Our perambulation continued along the dike path. The river lay on our left. To our right was a large marsh. This left only the narrow causeway, easily defendable, from the mainland to the abbey.

We explored the ruins… stout stone walls still standing… covered with ivy…

image

The ruins of Molana Abbey

image

Bill discovers a neglected statue during his stroll

The abbey was founded in the 6th century by a disciple of St. Carthage, one of the earliest in Ireland.

Monks here kept a small flicker of civilization burning throughout the middle ages – despite being attacked by Vikings and plague (no records remain).

After the Norman invasion, the abbey came under the control of the Fitzgerald family and remained with the “Geraldines” until it was destroyed by English troops under Cromwell. It has been an ivy-covered ruin ever since, for nearly 400 years.

Gaudy Bloom

Looking across the river, we saw more ruins… a tower… and a church. We were tempted to lie down in the soft grass and contemplate the romantic beauty of the setting… of glories past… of monks diligently trying to preserve the wisdom and learning of the ancients… their cold hands copying the old documents… or working in the adjacent fields…

But our curiosity was aroused. Where did the path go next? What other wonders would it reveal?

The abbey stands on what was once an island… now connected by dikes and causeways leading along the riverbank in both directions. We had come from the West… we now continued along towards the East.

After leaving the dike, the path crosses the main entrance, with its large iron gate. Then, it takes you down a series of steps to the riverbank again.

There it continues… with rhododendron, azaleas, camellias, hawthorne, and wildflowers of unknown genus and species too numerous to mention… all in glorious, gaudy, late-May bloom.

Eventually, we discovered another set of steps leading to two abandoned gate houses. They flanked another entrance to the property, largely hidden from view. From there, a service road led us through field and forest back to our cottage.

Performing Assets

“It is a magnificent property,” we summarized for Elizabeth.

“Yes, but the last thing we need is another piece of property… and especially one that takes so much attention.”

Later, when we relayed this to our local man-on-the-scene, autodidact philosopher and weekend paddy sidekick, Ronan:

“Ah… that’s the problem… the upkeep.

“It’s all changed in my lifetime. It used to be that these big estates were ways to make money. They were productive. And profitable. And they had dozens of workers. They raised cattle and sheep. And tenant farmers paid rents. They were what you call on Wall Street ‘performing assets.’

“But now, the only performing they do is to put you in the poor house. Instead of providing an income… they cost you money. And over there… where you’re staying… that place must cost a fortune to maintain. I think they have five or six full-time employees over there. The owner tries to sell it from time to time, but who can afford it?

“It’s kind of funny for us little, local people, though. There was a time, not too long ago, when the lords of the manor had us waiting on them. We were at their beck and call, you might say. We doffed our caps when we saw them on the street… if we ever did… and we knew our place.

“But now, the owners are desperate to earn an income from these properties so they can pay the upkeep. The little people are living in their comfortable little houses in the suburbs of Dublin. And the lords and ladies are rattling around in their huge, cold, old houses… and with the roofs ready to fall in on them.

“So they take in tour groups… and weddings… and even host concerts and that sort of thing. And now, the lady of the manor greets a group of wage earners from Waterford or Cork… and she serves THEM tea!

“I guess that’s the way the world works. Sic transit gloria mundi. He that did ride so high doth lie so low… What goes around comes around… Or something like that.”

That was enough for us. We gave up our plan of buying the big estate and becoming the Lord of the Manor.

Immediately, we felt the weight lifted from our shoulders. The shackles were off our feet… and the noose was removed from around our neck.

“Well, you can pay millions of dollars for the privilege of worrying about how to make this work… and lose another couple hundred thousand a year maintaining it,” Elizabeth concluded. “Or we can pay $150 a night… and enjoy it all we want.

“And they’ll even make the bed.”

Regards,

signature

Bill

MARKET INSIGHT: ITALIAN STOCKS UNDER PRESSURE

By Joe Withrow, Head of Research, Bonner & Partners

Italian stocks are cratering…

That’s the story today as we chart the iShares MSCI Italy Capped ETF (EWI) – which tracks a basket of 24 of the largest Italian stocks – from the start of January through today.

As you can see, EWI dropped 10% this month as investors worry about Italy’s political climate.

Chart

You see, Italy’s two anti-establishment parties – The Five Star Movement and League – gained support during Italy’s parliamentary elections three months ago… but their coalition government was blocked by Italian President Sergio Mattarella over the weekend.

Now, President Mattarella is at risk of being impeached… which would lead to another round of heated elections.

This political uncertainty has spooked the market… and Italian stocks have sold off in response.

-Joe Withrow

FEATURED READS

2018’s Bad Days Have Been Very Bad
2018 has been hard on U.S. stocks. While the one-day drops have been intermittent, the scale of these declines has investors worried. The average down day for this year is 24 percent bigger than the average up day, the biggest gap since 1948.

Why Banks Need Blockchain
Banks have had a hard time securing customer data in recent years. To protect consumer data, one security expert thinks banks will have no choice but to turn to blockchain.

Forget Stocks and Bonds
Commodities will be the biggest investing story of the next two years. That’s the message from Casey Research’s globetrotting geologist, David Forest. He believes one commodity in particular is primed for explosive gains.

MAILBAG

In the mailbag, “Bad Guy” Theory remains a popular subject…

You are 120% right in your last two letters about BGT; too bad so many of your readers are neocons and think that being anti-war is somehow “left.” Whatever happened to the old right, along the lines of Pat Buchanan? Not to mention, how can somebody be against higher taxes and big government and also be pro-war? Where do they expect the money to come from?

– Ralph N.

Your recent discussion of the Bad Guy has been some of your best writing in years, and the reaction to it from your most pious readership has been equally entertaining. As a country, America has a personality crafted by all its people, culture, and history. It can do good, legitimately fighting against tyranny as in World War II, or bringing aid to countries struck by natural disasters, disease, and hunger. And often, it can do this in a humble manner. But the U.S. also has a nasty, jingoist, and tribal hubris wherein it frequently sees itself as blessed by God above other countries. In this state, it often either convinces itself that the end justifies the means, or it vilifies people/countries who are different.

Of course, Americans are also not good at introspection, being particularly sensitive to any suggestion that they are in any way The Bad Guy. Unfortunately, it seems the U.S. is in a particularly angry mood, and I believe Trump is both a cause and a beneficiary of this state. His racism, personal attacks, warmongering, narcissism, utter lack of humility, and lack of respect for the Constitution are the absolute worst examples of leadership for a country endowed with so much power and responsibility.

– Gary M.

I mostly agree with your thoughts and commentary. I am always amazed to listen to people whose opinions are that the U.S. is always in the right and only does good in the world. We have done some wonderful things in the world, and many horrendous things as well. Hopefully your musings will get people to think just a little bit. Having differences with others doesn’t mean anyone is bad, just seeing things differently.

– Robert E.

I love the way you write, but you are so two-faced when it comes to Israel. You always preach that the only reason a country should have a military is to protect its own borders, but then you crap all over Israel for doing just that. Wake up. Or at least tell us why you really detest Israel.

– Tim A.

Thanks, Bill. Once again, you have allowed the masses of non-thinking types to unwittingly out themselves. You criticize republicans, and the masses yell that you are a Democrat sympathizer. You criticize Democrats, and get scolded for being pro-Trump. Now, you criticize the very acts of war and senseless killing of innocents, and the rabble climb atop their high horses and somehow misconstrue this as you being a supporter of Iran. This would seem to be an alarming condemnation of our education system and the lack of critical thinking skills being taught at these supposed institutions of learning. “Apologize to your readers”? No. Absolutely no.

One of your readers wrote that, “If they could, they would kill you, me, and our families.” Where do these people come up with this stuff? My guess is that they have been under the spell of the sociopaths in government for far too long. The masses, led by these government types, have long been wrong in just about everything. So you getting under the skin of so many seems to say that you are correct and should continue down this path. Thanks for everything that you write.

– Al D.

Okay, fine, I’ll reply. You likely don’t need to hear it. You likely have tougher skin than the rest of us. After all, you used to fight against the world’s most powerful criminal organization in history and have lived to tell the tale. But I’ll reply anyway.

Bill, you are right. You likely know it, but with all of the nationalists writing you to tell you that you are wrong, I needed to toss in my voice to help balance the scales.

Sure, Iran is a backward country, and its government denies its people basic rights. But then again, to some degree, so is most of Europe (not to mention the bully that has become the U.S.). But if looking objectively, one cannot help but wonder if Trump were the president of Iran, and if Rouhani and all of the citizens of each nation switched nationalities, I highly doubt that we, with Trump at the helm, would not be clamoring for him to build a nuclear arsenal to “protect” us. And anyone that writes you to denounce you has never sat long enough to actually do this thought experiment.

As to exporting terrorism, who does it better (and has been doing it longer) than the U.S.?

– Joseph J.

I have been reading your Diary for over eight years now. I rarely disagree with your opinion on different subjects, but I think your Bad Guy theory is some of the best work you have written to date. You are going to get a lot of people very upset with you, but you couldn’t be more accurate.

The U.S. foreign policy is filled with the horror and tragedy it has bestowed around the world. It allows radical Islamic governments to stay in power while removing democratically elected governments. The book Confessions of an Economic Hitman is a great read to get a small glimpse of what really takes place. The dehumanization of the other side is one of the biggest tragedies of humanity.

– Salman E.

Thanks, Bill, for your powerful and insightful essays on the “good” and “bad” guys. Don’t be discouraged by those who disagree.

– Tom I.

Meanwhile, a Dear Reader who ordered a case of Bill’s Malbec offers a review…

Bill, I discovered Malbec over 20 years ago in Mendoza, Argentina while getting organized to climb Aconcagua. I suspect the terrain on the trek to base camp was quite similar to your ranch. If so, it’s not an area I would elect to raise cattle, based on my sixty-five years of cattle ranching in the U.S. Regardless, I hope your wine production generates enough cashflow to make it practical for you to keep operating the ranch.

This is not based on your emotional appeal to “save the ranch,” but on my tasting of your wine. It really is quite good, and I hope you continue to produce it and offer it for direct purchase. I tasted a bottle of the 2016 today for the first time, and promptly ordered another case.

– David T.

Editor’s Note: This year’s vintage of Tacana Malbec is now sold out. But be sure you continue reading the Diary. We’ll alert readers when the next harvest is ready next spring.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Chris Mayer might have just uncovered the next “100 bagger…”

That’s a stock that delivers $100 for every $1 invested. And Chris, one of Bill’s top analysts, has made it his life’s work to uncover these rare companies. To get all the details, go right here.

image